Oscar Cameron Croft

Oscar Cameron Croft
Oscar Cameron Croft

Oscar Cameron was the first of thirteen children born to William Teeter and Alice Caulk Croft, on June 19, 1887 in Fairfield, Clay County, Nebraska. The first time Oscar appears on a United States Federal Census record was in 1900 (The 1890 census record is not available). He was 12 years old and living with his family in Lone Tree, Clay County, Nebraska. The township’s name certainly describes the landscape of this part of the United States. At the time the Crofts lived in the area it was a sparsely populated prairie land in south central Nebraska, and a major industry was corn and wheat farming.

By the time the 1910 United States Federal Census was taken the Croft family had grown by leaps and bounds. Recorded are William and Alice with their twelve children – Oscar C., Paul H., Vede W., George A., Fred D., Frank M., Grace I., Blanche M., Hope C., Russell W., and Ruth E. A son named Elmer died in 1897, the same year he was born. This was a formidable household, to say the least!

In so many historical accounts of this era we read that the children were engaged in the work on the farm and was a major reason for such large families. They provided a type of workforce. Since Oscar was the oldest, undoubtedly his parents expected a great deal of him. More than likely, he and his brothers began at an early age helping their father in various capacities on the wheat farm. In fact, there is family lore that the Croft’s formed a type of family “commune.” Here is the story as related by Oscar’s granddaughter, Cynthia Croft Wood.

Their dad never voted for a winning politician – always for the socialist candidate. Hence this was his desire to implement the communistic concept of “each contributing according to his ability and each taking according to his need”. It was Oscar that decided that they “needed” an airplane to dust the crops. I recall Dad saying that the rest of the family wasn’t consulted and this decision caused a rift within this “utopian” commune.

Oscar Croft beside crop-duster airplane
Oscar Croft beside crop-duster airplane

Sometime in the 1908 or 1909 Oscar met a girl named Ethel Mae Mohler. She was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Mary Mohler and her family lived in nearby York County. We do not know how they met, but evidently they were attracted to each other and courted for a time. On October 5, 1910 they married in York County, Nebraska.

Oscar and Ethel Croft
Oscar and Ethel Croft

It is likely that after their marriage Oscar and Ethel lived on or near the family farm land. Ethel’s father was also a farmer so she was familiar with the lifestyle. While still living in Fairfield, Clay County, Nebraska, their first child, Lloyd Ollie, was born  February 9, 1913.

During the years between 1914 and 1918 all the world’s great powers were engaged in the First World War, sometimes called “The Great War.” In 1917 and 1918 all men who between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register for the draft. Oscar fell in this category and he did his duty by registering June 5, 1917. It is interesting to note that he claimed two disabilities – weak eyes and a heart ailment.

Evidently Oscar made the decision to leave farming because on the 1920 United States Federal Census, he, Ethel, Lloyd, and Keith are living in Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska. It may have been a family rift that caused him to leave the farm, or perhaps it was the realization that he was not cut out for the farming life. Nevertheless, the census recorded his occupation as automobile salesman. Later that year, their second son, Keith Lyle, was born November 15, 1920.

Oscar and Ethel with sons, Lloyd and Keith
Oscar and Ethel with sons, Lloyd and Keith

Sometime in 1929 Oscar and Ethel opted to leave Nebraska. Family sources indicate that during the latter part of the 1920’s into the mid 1930’s the large Croft family began to disperse with each family group moving in different directions. Some traveled northwest, others east, some to the southwest, and a few to Kansas. It is surmised that the reason for the dispersion was the combination of the terrible drought and the historical United States depression. We know that Nebraska was one of the states that felt the brunt of the Dust Bowl that occurred in the early 1930’s, so it is entirely possible the Crofts were feeling the early effects of it in their area. If that was the case, we can understand their need to seek “greener pastures.”

OSCAR, ETHEL CROFT AND SONS MOVE TO TEXAS

Oscar and Ethel moved to San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas in 1929. We do not know what drew them to this part of the country, but perhaps it was the promise of better employment opportunities and living conditions. Oscar, Ethel, Lloyd, and Keith are recorded on the 1930 United States Federal Census and are residing at 1625 Broadway. This residence must have been a rooming house because five other individuals are recorded at this same address. Ownership of the house is not indicated. The census also gives the information that Oscar’s occupation is District Representative in the automobile industry.

1937 was an important year for Oscar and Ethel Croft. They embarked on a new venture with their son Lloyd when together they founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 North Flores Street in San Antonio. Later they developed a trailer rental business and became a part of the Nationwide Trailer rental chain. Oscar’s brother and sister-in-law, George and Lena Croft, lived in Kansas City, Missouri and founded a branch Croft Trailer Company there, too. The company was quite successful and the San Antonio branch was in business for over 70 years. In its 70th year Oscar and Ethel’s grandson L.K. Croft submitted an article to the San Antonio Express News and it was published on July 10, 2007.

Happy 70th anniversary to Croft Truck Equipment and Accessories…

Seventy years in business is always worth noting.

The company began in 1937 when Lloyd O. Croft and his parents, O.C. and Ethel Croft, founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 N. Flores Street.

It originally focused on making trailers and hitches. Later as the trailer rental portion of the business grew, it became part of the Nationwide Trailer rental chain.

The part of the business specializing in custom truck accessories also grew.

In 1972, a cousin, Mary Ann Balzer, and her husband, Harvey Balzer, purchased the company. The rental portion of the business stopped a decade later as the company moved into selling trailer hitches and truck accessories In 1991 the Balzer children, Mike and Sandra, became president and vice president of the company.

Now at 1503 N. Brazos, the company has 135 employees, with a distribution center in Houston.

croft-trailer-company-1958

Note: At this time (2011) the Croft Truck and Equipment Accessories is no longer in business.

In the years following the founding of Croft Trailer Company Oscar was very involved in developing the business. Though it was no surprise to family members, Ethel worked right beside him assisting with the bookkeeping and other office tasks. It was a team effort. Eventually they even moved into a house next door to the company.

Ethel and Oscar Croft
Ethel and Oscar Croft

When asked to describe his grandfather L.K. Croft shared that he remembers him as having a light-hearted demeanor. In fact, he added that his grandfather’s brothers were also very outgoing and fun-loving.

In the late 1940’s Oscar developed heart disease causing a gradual decline in his health. He died in San Antonio on April 19, 1952 and was buried at Mission Burial Park South.

croft-oscar-c-2

Sources

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations. Inc., 2000.

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo UT,

USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. World War I Draft Registrations Cards, 1917-1918 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005.

Oscar C. Croft obituary, Express News, San Antonio, Texas, Apr. 20, 1952.

Clay County, marriage record, Clay County Clerk’s Office, Fairfield, Nebraska.

Oscar Cameron Croft, death certificate no. 16167, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Tijerina, Edmund, “Around Town”, San Antonio Express News, July 10, 2007, San Antonio, Texas.

Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia, “World War I.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WorldWarI

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011

Oscar Cameron Croft Pedigree Chart (click link) scan0003